Since arriving in New York in late January, Bret Bielema has made no qualms about his desire to once again take over a Power-Five program at the collegiate level. From showing “definite interest” in the head coaching vacancy at Michigan State to interviewing for the lead-gig at the University of Colorado less than a month into his stint with the Giants, Bielema’s to return to the College ranks was imminant.
On Saturday, Bielema got his wish, as the University of Illinois has announced the hiring of Bielema, who will become the 26th Head Coach in the 132-year history of the Fighting Illini program.
According to ESPN’s Jordan Raanan, Bielema receives a six-year contract with a starting salary of $4.2 million. The hiring marks a return to Bielema’s Big Ten roots, as previously served in the same role at the University of Wisconsin from 2006-2012. A native of Prophetstown, Illinois, Bielema owns a 97-58 record over his 12-year experience as a college head coach (Wisconsin, Arkansas).
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Bielema Out as Giants Assitant, Immediately
Bielema, who had served as the Giants’ outside linebackers coach and senior assistant this season, had spent the previous two years on the New England Patriots staff working alongside Joe Judge, who served as the Pats’ special teams coordinator/wide receivers coach at the time.
Per Bruce Feldman of FOX Sports, Bielema will begin his duties at Illinois immediately, stripping the Giants of their assistant coach with just three weeks remaining as the team attempts to make a push for their first playoff appearance since 2016.
Dan Duggan of The Athletic has reported that inside linebackers coach Kevin Sherrer and defensive assistant Jody Wright will both help fill the void left behind by Bielema, as the duo will take over Bielema’s duties of coaching the outside linebackers for the remainder of the season.
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Bielema is Excited to Return Home
Bielema, who UI Director of Athletics Josh Whitman deemed a “proven winner,” addressed his return to the Big Ten, via the school’s official website:
Illinois and the Big Ten is home for me, and I can’t be any more excited about the opportunity in front of me with the Fighting Illini. We want to build a program that makes Illini Nation proud and regain the passion that I’ve seen when Illinois wins. We want the young men playing football in the state of Illinois from Freeport to Cairo and from Quincy to Danville dreaming of wearing the Orange and Blue and playing at Memorial Stadium. I look forward to re-connecting with the high school coaches around the state making it clear we intend to keep our players home.
We will build an outstanding staff for both player development and recruiting. The University of Illinois has incredible facilities and is known as one of the world’s outstanding academic institutions. We will hold the young men on our team responsible both on and off the field while coaching them to be champions in life. Jen and I, along with our girls, are excited to get to Champaign-Urbana and get started on the journey. Go Illini!
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